UK student accommodation reaching ‘crisis point’ as bad as 1970s, charity warns | Student accommodation | Daily News Byte


Student housing is reaching a “crisis point” not seen since the 1970s, when students slept in sports halls and their cars, and is set to get worse in the New Year, a charity has warned.

Since the start of the academic year, students at universities across the UK have complained of fierce competition for flatshare rooms for the 2022 and 2023 academic years.

Experts say an increasing number of students are experiencing periods of hidden homelessness or are accepting inappropriate housing out of desperation. Students say they have been forced to couch-surf with friends, live some distance with parents or accept unsuitable rooms such as rooms without windows.

“You’re starting to see a move towards a shortage of student accommodation at most universities – not just the ones you read about,” said Martin Blakey, chief executive of student housing charity Unipol.

“The reason is that purpose-built student accommodation has stopped expanding to that extent, and we don’t think that’s going to change. At the same time we find that there has been a significant decline in shared households – [landlords] Going to hire professionals or leave the market and go back.”

Universities are running less of their own accommodation in favor of partnering with private providers, hampered by widespread investment freezes and adversarial planning systems in some cities, he said.

Planning regulations had made it more difficult to subdivide private houses, and Scotland now required landlords to apply for a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence, he added.

Data compiled by the StuRents accommodation portal, which says it represents 70% of student beds in the UK, suggests there is a shortage of 207,000 student beds, and 19 towns and cities with a short supply of more than 10% of beds. 28% in Preston and 25% in Bristol to 10% in Birmingham and Swansea.

Blakey said the shortage was acute this year due to a number of factors, including rising rental demand in cities, rapidly expanding universities and international students returning amid the easing of the Covid pandemic. He predicted that the situation will worsen when the new intake comes in January and again in September 2023, which is expected to be the university’s second record recruitment round.

Chloe Field, National Union of Students (NUS) vice-president for higher education, said the “unprecedented” housing shortage was “putting students’ university experience at risk and forcing them to make difficult decisions”. “Without immediate action to increase the amount of affordable housing, it is inevitable that both dropouts and student homelessness will increase,” she said.

In Glasgow, students have pleaded with their university not to stop recruiting them after they fail to register for their courses; Students in Durham queued overnight to reserve accommodation for next year; Bristol students were housed in Newport, Manchester students in Liverpool, and York students in Hull; And students in Northern Ireland have set up their first housing co-operative.

Michael Rainsford, co-founder of StuRents, said that while different cities will announce student rooms at different times for the fall of 2023, “we’re seeing the earliest searches ever by students who are scrambling to secure somewhere to live. “. Almost every property available for fall 2023 in Durham was leased by the end of October.

Rainsford said strong competition for homes had driven up prices, which averaged between 10% and 20% increases in some towns compared to last year. Students are also struggling with affordability – NUS estimates that one-third of all accommodation costs more than the average maintenance loan.

Last year, a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute warned that student homelessness would increase due to the cost of living crisis, while a survey of 3,000 students by Student Beans in October suggested that one in 10 faced moving back with parents or guardians. Homelessness such as couch-surfing, or living in Airbnbs, hotels or their cars.

The Universities of Portsmouth and East London have confirmed that the number of homeless students is high this year.

Universities are being urged to collect and publish more data on where their students live and to provide better information to prospective students.
Blakey highlighted the example of Nottingham as a possible solution: the local authority has collaborated with the city’s two universities on a student accommodation strategy to determine how much accommodation is needed and available.

He added that universities could “put their hands in their pockets and redevelop some of their own housing”, as “the people who are really badly affected by the housing shortage are the last in the queue”.

A Universities UK spokeswoman said this year “universities worked closely with students and the housing sector to ensure that students receive suitable accommodation” but that it was aware of the problems, for which it was exploring possible solutions.


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